A Facebook user has recently been indicted by Vietnamese authorities for allegedly spreading information against the state and slandering its leaders in the social media platform.
Nguyen Duc Quoc Vuong was arrested in Lam Dong province on Sept. 23 on charges of “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Since his detention, his family has not been allowed to visit him, and he was unable to meet his lawyer prior to the indictment.
Nguyen’s lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that when he met his client on June 12, he found the indictment was haphazardly made.
“I thought the indictment was very poor, because they only summarized [the case]in a mere four pages,” the lawyer said.
The lawyer said the indictment, which was filed under Article 117 of the Criminal Code of 2015 and 2017, should have contained details of over 2,000 files, documents and reports related to Nguyen’s case.
Following the indictment, Nguyen’s family filed a petition asking to visit him on Saturday, but officers in Lam Dong Mat camp where he is being held denied their request.
Nguyen had previously been arrested and fined 750,000 dong (US$32) on June 10, 2018 by police in Ho Chi Minh City for his involvement in unrelated protests over law drafts on special economic zones and cybersecurity.
Meanwhile in Ho Chi Minh City, police said two recently arrested Facebook discussion group leaders have refused to meet with their defence lawyers – a sign their clients were being pressured into waiving their rights to legal representation, their lawyers said.
The duo, Huynh Anh Khoa and Nguyen Dang Thuong, were administrators of a popular Facebook group called “Economic-Political Discussion,” with 46,000 followers that was closed down immediately after the two men’s arrests on June 13.
They face charges of “abusing democratic freedoms,” a vaguely worded law often used to lock up bloggers and other peaceful critics of the country’s one-party communist government.
Nguyen Van Mieng, the lawyer from the Nguyen Duc Quoc Vuong case, said Monday that police advised him that his client Huynh Anh Khoa refused to meet with him.
“This morning, I came to the police office to asking about Huynh Anh Khoa’s case and police told me Huynh had refused [legal counsel]during the investigation period,” said Nguyen.
According to Nguyen, police said both his client and the other defendant refused legal representation willingly.
Nguyen Dang Thuong’s lawyer Dang Din Manh told RFA Friday that police said his client also refused legal counsel.
“In cases related to national security, police often try limiting the participation of lawyers and they usually do not want lawyers present during the [investigation]phase. It is a very common practice when the defendants are under pressure from the police,” Dang added.
Vietnam, whose ruling Communist Party controls all media and tolerates no dissent, ranks 175th of 180 countries on the 2020 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.
According to Defend the Defenders, Hanoi has arrested at least 29 activists, including 19 bloggers, for writing posts online, and is currently detaining 238 prisoners of conscience.
The country has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a US-based watchdog group. (Source: RFA)